The 'Health Halo' Effect

Consumer definitions of healthy eating evolving, says Technomic

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CHICAGO -- Consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious, but their perceptions of what is considered healthy eating at restaurants are also changing, according to food consultancy Technomic. Contemporary definitions of health are strongly associated with local, natural, organic and sustainable food and drink. Also, consumers are taking more of a balanced and personal approach to healthy eating--seeking out better-for-you foods, while enjoying occasional indulgences.

"More consumers than ever before tell us that eating healthy and paying attention to nutrition is important," said Darren Tristano, vice president of Technomic.

"However, there's a shift happening in terms of what actually defines healthy for them," he said. "We're seeing more consumers gravitate toward health-halo claims such as local, natural and organic, as well as whole wheat and free range. Operators can leverage this growing interest in the health halo by developing the kinds of menu offerings that can underscore health without detracting from the taste perception."

To help foodservice executives better understand consumer behavior, preferences and attitudes regarding healthy eating, Technomic has developed the Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report.

Findings include:

  • 64% of consumers today--up from 57% in 2010--agree that it is important to eat healthy and pay attention to nutrition.
  • Half of today's consumers (50%) report that they eat healthy food to have a nutritious and balanced diet.
  • Half of consumers say they would like restaurants to offer more healthy foods, and nearly as many say they would probably order these options if they were offered.
  • 38% of consumers today--up from 33% in 2010--say they are more likely to visit restaurants that have healthy menu options, even if they do not order a better-for-you item.
  • More consumers today than polled in 2010 report that they consume local, organic, natural and sustainable foods at least once a week.
  • Half of consumers say that descriptors such as low salt, lowfat and low sugar clearly signal health, yet strongly detract from the taste of food; however, foods that indicate a serving of fruit or vegetables, or 100% whole wheat highlight health on the menu, while strongly enhancing consumers' taste perceptions.

Chicago-based Technomic provides clients with the facts, insights and consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions and results. Its services include numerous publications and digital products, as well as proprietary studies and ongoing research on all aspects of the food industry.